Rustic, soulful, and then some. I loved this acoustic sparkler of a CD, a Christmas gem. Jason Eskridge and friends offer up warm renditions of five holiday standards and a bonus track, enhanced nicely by tasty string nuances, (the deliciously mournful cello of “Silent Night,” the upright bass on “Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas”) and covered gorgeously by Eskridge’s rich soulful vocals. “A Rustic Soul Christmas” has only six songs, but oh baby, what Jason Eskridge does with these six songs! The EP’s got a large crew of contributors with little identifying information but suffice it to say there’s plenty of talent.
It’s not that he’s reworking the melody line, like some other fabulous Christmas projects. He is true to the original intentions of these classics, but he’s wringing every last ounce of beauty out of them, from his moving soaring vocals on “O, Holy Night,” to his fresh, jazzy take on “Little Drummer Boy.” You may have heard me mention before, I’m slightly over this tired Christmas song (yes, I said it!), but the percussive riches and lustrous guitar treats on this rendition won me over quickly. His tender take on “Silent Night” is deeply expressive, and when the upbeat “We Wish You a Merry Christmas” breaks out mid-track into some fresh raps over a warm horn section, it’s all good. Eskridge and friends offer up some soulful scat on the way out, adding to the delight. And don’t miss the surprise bonus track, a hand-clapping, foot-stomping traditional spiritual, “Go Where I Send Thee.”
But the standout track has to be the tenderly nuanced “Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas,” thick and warm with sonic sparklers like the soprano sax tags, the sweetest background vocals, and Eskridge’s own superb tones. If you like your music earthy and warm, you’ll count “A Rustic Soul Christmas” as one of your new favorites. And it’s still not too late to order this one for your own cozy holiday celebrations, from his Myspace. Big, big props to Jason Eskridge for “A Rustic Soul Christmas.”